“It is love, has been love, will always be love that makes the biggest difference in our world.” ― Scott Stabile, self described love activist
Forty-seven years ago, I read my favorite book ever. The Velveteen Rabbit. It was given to my new-born son by his Aunt Ann. The book was first published 100 years ago and has become a classic (with movies and animated renditions).
Young children probably do not get the major theme around love that brings one to life - to becoming Real. The book, I think, is more for parents than kids anyway.
In the book, a stuffed toy rabbit becomes real through the love of a boy (and a little help from the Nursery Fairy). We don't hear how the boy is affected by giving his love. But in real life both in the giving and the receiving of selfless love, we become more "Real."
I can remember being pooped on, vomited on, going without a full night’s sleep and a shower for days when my kids were little. There was just too much to be done on their behalf to take a breath, even change into a fresh shirt. Just wipe myself down. I felt so ratty I wanted to cry.
Then, there were the times when the little boys would turn their eyes of affection on me. "Come sit by the fire and I'll sing you a 'love heart'" one would say as he took my hand. These "love hearts" were little songs about just that...sitting by the fire together, taking a break, smiling at each other, opening our hearts, and, well...loving each other.
A few years ago, I was reading a magazine while having lunch at a restaurant. A woman came in towing several little kids. She looked at me with envy and sighed. I knew what she was thinking. Been there. Exhausted. Feeling like I look like crap.
I assured her that her day would come. She retorted something like, “Yeah, maybe, in 3 to 15 years I can be human.”
I wish I could have told her that she might be in for a big surprise. That perhaps she was becoming not just human, but Human - Real at that very moment. At least the opportunity was there.
I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know how to explain. I couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to get socked in the eye. I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to sound self-righteous.
But let me try out my explanation on you…my idea about the process of becoming human, of becoming Real with a capital “R.” See what you think. Let’s start with this often quoted passage.
From The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Becoming Real, becoming Human, involves loving and being loved. It’s magic. We see people differently, they see us differently. We are beautiful to each other in some mysterious way. It happens through the poop, vomit, and nights without sleep and days without showers.
Sometimes those little dickens seem to appreciate it and sometimes they don't seem to have a clue as to what has been done, sacrificed, put up with…for them (until much later, often when they become parents themselves). In my case, however, appreciation or not, I saw little loving eyes. They rearranged my insides. They brought me to tears of joy and reciprocal affection.
It’s amazing magic really. I never thought a girl like me who had been raised in the South on beauty pageants and “if you have it, flaunt it” narcissism could ever become so fanatically, self-sacrificingly, head-over-heels concerned about little poopy brats. I am ever so glad that love magic happened. Allowed me to move closer to becoming a Real-er Human Be-ing.
And there are a bunch of you out there doing the same with kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbor kids and dogs and cats and trees and flowers and friends and strangers and very tough kids. All following the …hard, sometimes hurtful path of love to becoming divinely, beautifully Human.
I am bowled over by the work of people like Father Gregory Boyle (author of Tattoos on the Heart, Barking to The Choir and The Whole Language). He has fathered (in the best sense of the word) thousands of gang members at Homeboy Industries. Clearly his love has rearranged their insides and his. Father Boyle says he wouldn't trade his life for anybody's.
Just reading Father Boyle's stories not only buoys me up, but makes me see the true power of love to make us Human. It's almost more than I can comprehend or believe. If you dare peek into this 5+ minute youtube video, you may have your insides rearranged too. (alert, he is also a very funny guy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk--XN4ozr8)
I am reminded of the words of French priest, scientist, philosopher, teacher, and writer, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
May we keep following the path of love and journey through the poop to becoming more Human, more Real, and living the good life together.
Here is a 4 minute take on the Velveteen Rabbit and being Real from NPR which ends beautifully https://www.npr.org/2022/04/12/1092065211/as-the-velveteen-rabbit-turns-100-its-message-continues-to-resonate. If you have never read The Velveteen Rabbit or would enjoy hearing it again, listen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng13xakqtqs
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